Treatments for HIV are so effective that most people with HIV are healthy and can live as long as someone who does not have HIV.

First steps

Getting an HIV diagnosis can be scary. Connection with an HIV support organisation can be very helpful, especially in the early days after being diagnosed. It can help to reduce feelings of fear, isolation and shame. See our useful contacts page to find out more information about support.

When you are first told you have HIV you will be referred to a specialist HIV doctor for expert and confidential care. Seeing the HIV doctor is free. The doctor will work with you to develop a treatment plan.

Telling others you have HIV

Who you tell about your HIV is your choice. Don’t feel pressured into telling anyone if you don’t want to, that is your right. If you do decide to tell others, it is easier if you have given yourself some time to feel ready. Be sure the person you tell is someone you can trust and who will be supportive, non-judgmental, discreet and helpful.

It is important to have a doctor you feel comfortable with.

Your regular doctor may not know you have HIV. It is advisable to share that information with them so they have a full understanding of your medical health so they can better assist with the management of your overall health and wellbeing.

You do not need to tell your dentist but as with other health professionals, if they know, they will be in a better position to look after you properly.

Stigma and discrimination

There is still a lot of fear and misunderstanding about HIV. Many people with HIV experience stigma and discrimination and it is not uncommon to hear people say that the reaction of other people is the most difficult thing about living with HIV.

The fear around HIV is a hangover from the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s. Little was known about HIV and how to prevent it. Some of the common myths and judgements about HIV are:

  • HIV and AIDS are always associated with death.
  • HIV is associated with behaviours that some people don’t agree with (homosexuality, drug use, sex work).
  • HIV is only transmitted through sex, which is taboo in some cultures.
  • HIV is a result of someone’s personal or moral failure, and they deserve to be punished.

These myths are simply wrong. They are also out of step with the values that hold us together as a community.

You can help end HIV stigma by:

  • Knowing the facts about HIV and challenge misunderstanding wherever you can.
  • Educating others when the opportunity arises. People are most likely to be open to new information when they are presented with the facts in a respectful manner by someone they have a good relationship with.
  • Choose your words carefully. For example, don’t use terms like ‘clean’ to describe someone who does not have HIV. It implies that people who are living with HIV are ‘dirty’ which is untrue and shaming.
  • Supporting people living with HIV in whatever social or practical way you can.

If you are experiencing stigma and need support, reach out to one of the HIV support organisations, or get in touch with the Te Taenga Mai team.

HIV and the law

This site does not give legal advice, but there are some key things you need know:

  • People living with HIV have the same human rights as everyone else.
  • It is illegal in Aotearoa New Zealand to discriminate based on HIV status under the Human Rights Act.
  • Under the law in Aotearoa New Zealand you are not required to tell your sexual partners that you have HIV as long as you use condoms every time.
  • You do not need to tell your partner you have HIV when you are kissing, having oral sex, or masturbating as there is no risk of passing on HIV through these activities.
  • There have been cases in Aotearoa NZ where people have been prosecuted for not telling their partners they have HIV when they have had sex without wearing a condom. While this case law may change because of U=U, for now, using a condom remains the best way not to be prosecuted.

Access more information about how you are protected by the Human Rights Act on the Burnett Foundation Aotearoa website.

Staying physically healthy

Here are a few tips on how to stay physically healthy when you are living with HIV.

  • Take your medication everyday as prescribed.
  • Stay in touch with your doctor and follow their advice.
  • Eat a balanced and nutritious diet, and if need be, seek advice from a nutritionist about the best foods for you.
  • Do regular exercise to keep fit.

Look after your mental well-being

It is normal to have ups and downs. If you are feeling down or more anxious than usual, it is a good idea to seek support.

  • Do not be too hard on yourself. Everyone struggles with their mood sometimes.
  • Do something to distract you from negative thinking if that is what’s going on, like gardening, cleaning, exercise, cooking.
  • Do your best to get into regular sleep patterns. This helps to ground you and manage anxiety.
  • Cut down on alcohol and recreational drugs. It can be fun at the time but can play havoc with your body chemistry and moods.

Ask for and nurture positive relationships with friends, family, support groups and other people living with HIV.

What other support is available?

It can take people time to get used to having HIV. As well as medical care, you might need some other support to help you work through your feelings.

There are several organisations who can provide support for people living with HIV in New Zealand. These include Positive Women Inc., Toitū Te Ao, Burnett Foundation Aotearoa and Body Positive. See our Useful Contacts page for more information about these.

These organisations provide free counselling, up-to-date information, and connect you to other people living with HIV.

The Te Taenga Mai team is always available to support you too. We can help with information, linking you to other services or just being there to listen. See our Contact page to get in touch.